Viola says with a sigh that sure she has finer company here than any of their guests, but she will go be a dutyfull duchess. She kisses Essie and little Cathy, and we leave the nursery.
Might you, says I, just point me in the direction where I might find the fam’d gallery of paintings?
She obliges and says with a merry look, be sure to mark the one with the saint that leads a dragon by a leash.
I laugh and say indeed I shall.
'Tis an exceeding fine gallery and a great number of paintings adorn the walls. The light is just what one should desire – have I not heard Sir Z- R- and others expatiate upon the topick? – 'tis a fine clear light for viewing the works, but so contriv’d that the sunlight will not fall direct upon any of 'em, for 'tis most deleterious.
I have found the painting – sure 'tis very old and quaint in its style – in which some saint leads a dragon, that is a deal smaller than one would suppose, on a leash: indeed quite entire like unto a lapdog. I am contemplating this, when comes in Biffle with two footmen.
I curtesy to him. He looks embarrasst, as he goes about direct the footmen to remove one of the paintings at the other end of the gallery. 'Tis where there are some several paintings of a modern kind – I begin laugh.
O, I say, I confide you go conceal Antipodean Flora?
He clears his throat, and says, 'tis so, thinks it may be more diplomatick not to have it on display (unlike my exquisite bubby, thinks I, but am also diplomatick in not saying any such thing before the footmen); he then turns around and tells 'em to go put it in his study.
Once they are gone I laugh somewhat immoderate and say, sure there are fellows in this party have some auld acquaintance with Lady B-'s bubbies, 'twill not be a surprize and a wonder to 'em, but my dear, I greatly admire your delicacy in the matter. I daresay did Lord D- cast eyes upon it he would be most put about.
After a moment Biffle laughs himself. We look at one another with very antient friendship, and perchance a little more. So I say that I was lately in the nursery with Viola and little Cathy comes about to walk, and he looks doating.
Then says, D—n, I must go do the gracious host and keep my guests occupy’d so they do not go brangle amongst themselves.
I say as if idly that I was surpriz’d to meet the Earl of I- in this company.
Biffle shrugs and says, my father and his father were quite bosom-comrades, and he invit’d me to a shooting-party last year, I daresay for that reason, but sure we are not intimates. Indeed I have no opinion of his leanings, but –
You were most admirable train’d in the Diplomatick?
Entirely so, says he. I daresay Sir Vernon made entirely amiable to the Yankees even as he consider’d ‘em entire barbarians, that will chew tobacco and spit whatever the company.
That minds me, I say to change the subject, that Lord O- was saying he went hawking with Selim Pasha when he was in Turkey – did you do the like?
Indeed, says Biffle as we leave the gallery, a most excellent fine sight, such as I had only seen in the tapestries here – have you not seen 'em already I commend them to your attention.
I look out of the window and see that most of the company are out of doors, for the weather holds most extreme fine. Why, says I, I daresay I should go take the air, and will go desire Docket to put on my hat and hand me my parasol.
When I go to my chamber I find Docket and Sophy in convockation with Tibby. They jump up and make me their dips and I say, just put me on a hat and hand me my parasol and I will be out of your way.
Docket purses her mouth and says, Tibby had a notion about your hair, and indeed you should not go out without you have had it tidy’d –
O, says I, sure one may not withstand this cabal: and go sit at my dressing-table so that Tibby may be about the matter.
And, says Docket as Tibby gently places the hat upon my much neaten’d head and holds out a hand toward Sophy for a hat-pin, Tibby would desire some private converse with Your Ladyship could you spare a few minutes on some occasion.
(Pray, thinks I, that this is not to communicate the intelligence that her spunges have fail’d their purpose and she goes with child.)
Why, 'tis entire agreeable to me.
Perchance, goes on Docket, she might come here – Sophy and I may find somewhat else to be about – for might look particular did you go to her sitting-room.
Oh, poo, says I, and then take the consideration that 'tis not like visiting Biffle and Viola alone, there are a deal of nigh-on strangers about the place, including their servants that may go gossip and speculate, and that 'tis best to err upon the side of propriety. No, indeed, I go on, you have the right of it, Docket. I daresay you might some time go take tea with Lorimer?
'Tis an excellent suggestion, says Docket.
I look at myself in the mirror and smile – sure I am a vain creature – pick up my parasol, and go be in company.
I pass across the lawn and go towards the avenue of statues, where I encounter Lady D- and Agnes S-. I greet 'em and say, what, Lord D- is not with you?
O, says Lady D-, some of the gentlemen go fishing and he goes with 'em. She then gives a little sigh and says, she confides 'tis time she goes feed Arthur, and leaves us.
I look at her back and then at Agnes S-, who shrugs and says in a low voice, she seems to like the babe well enough despite of her suffering. I do not query further but I think she implies a deal without saying it.
She then says, Em has besought her to go watch her toxophilize, so she will go visit the butts. Has no desire undertake the matter herself, but must be a fine thing to watch.
Must sure provide inspiration for poetry, I say, and she blushes and looks about, but indeed there are none near us.
I therefore go my way to the avenue, that leads up to the pagoda, and converse with one or two as I make my way thro’ those that guess at what the statues represent, or are entire certain about the matter, and indeed, there is a little mild brangling over these matters of interpretation.
Coming to one that can sure be nothing other than the nymph Daphne in the midst of transforming into a tree, I am greet’d by the Marquess of O-, that seems to be alone. I look about for Nan.
Why, he says, is Hippolyta not an amazon? And do not amazons practise archery?
And you do not go watch?
She begg’d that I would not, for she is shamefull out of practice and doubts not she will be shooting very wild. But, he goes on, have you yet visit’d the folly?
I concede that I have not yet, perchance we might go view it?
He offers me his arm and we walk up the little incline to the pagoda. I wonder, says I, did they ever have a hermit install’d? and if so, was he oblig’d to wear Chinese robes?
The Marquess gives a little sigh and says, now, there was a place he never got to.
Do you, says I, giving his arm a little squeeze, regret giving up your life of exploration?
He does not answer immediate, and perchance 'twas not a very tactfull thing to enquire of a newly marry’d fellow. After some minutes he says, why, I cannot deny I should have lik’d to see China, and visit the antipodes, but – 'tis not the imperative desire that drove my earlyer travels. There is work to my hand here, there is my ador’d Hippolyta, and sure I find I already have a family about me that I find most congenial. 'Tis a thing I am entire unus’d to.
They are excellent creatures, says I. Lord U- is becoming very well spoke of.
We come to the pagoda. One may go inside, and sure 'twould provide accommodation for a hermit that preferr’d some simple habitation.
Might we hold converse here? says the Marquess. There were none others coming this far up the avenue.
I laugh a little. Sure you are still a stranger to the ways of Society, for I am like to suppose that do you remain more than a very few minutes in this place with one that was once the notorious Madame C-, even is she now a quite renown’d philanthropist, there will be a deal of salacious speculation. No, says I, I not’d this morn that one gets a very fine view up to the pagoda does one walk a little way down the other side of this incline. We might do that, that would keep us in entire plain sight of any that past this way.
So we do that, and when we are far enough away that even does any come nigh the pagoda, they will not hear our discourse, he opens to me the matter he wishes discuss.
Lady B-, says he, 'tis in my mind to write up my travels, but I find that a manner that suits botanickal essays or intelligence reports does not serve. You have a fine and vigorous style –
La, says I, you go read my philanthropick pamphlets?
He scowls down at me, then smiles, and says, he confides I write other matter as A Lady Incognita. 'Tis a large favour to ask, he goes on, but I am like to suppose did I convey the matter to you, you might set it forth very telling.
Why, says I, I might.
If there was any recompense I might make –
Why, says I, there is a philanthropick enterprize I support, would be extreme glad of some contribution (thinking of Dolly Mutton’s good work). But I confide 'twould provide me with a deal of matter for horrid tales. Let us convoke further when I come to D- Chase.